Tamarind (Tamarindus indica, Fabaceae), a tropical fruit found in Africa and Asia is highly valued for its pulp. Tamarind fruit pulp has a sweet acidic taste due to a combination of high contents of tartaric acid and reducing sugars. The pulp is used for seasoning, in prepared foods, to flavour confections, curries and sauces, and as a major ingredient in juices and other beverages. Commercial tamarind-based drinks are available from many countries. Vitamin B content is quite high; carotene and vitamin C contents are low. Presence of tannins and other dyeing matters in the seed testa make the whole seed unsuitable for consumption, but they become edible after soaking and boiling in water. Tamarind kernel powder is an important sizing material in textile, paper and jute industries. Seeds are gaining importance as an alternative source of proteins, and are besides rich in some essential minerals. Seed pectin can form gels over a wide pH range. Leaves and flowers can be eaten as vegetables, and are prepared in a variety of dishes. They are used to make curries, salads, stews and soups. Tamarind leaves are a fair source of vitamin C and α-carotene; mineral content is high, particularly P, K, Ca and Mg. Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal activity has been documented from several plant parts. Tamarind is also extensively used in tradi- tional medicine. The traditional uses, its phytochemistry and pharmacognosy is reviewed to provided with a particular orientation to its value in sub-Sahara Africa.
Key words: Tamarind, Tamarindus indica L., traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, anti-nutritional factors